Energy-starved Africa looks to India for nuclear reactors

From live mint

Updated: 18 Nov 2019, 12:55 AM IST

Utpal Bhaskar

  • climate change has affected Africa’s conventional hydropower generation capacity
  • As demand load is low, India’s pressurized heavy water reactor of 220MW unit size fits the bill

NEW DELHI : As part of India’s strategy to expand its footprint in Africa, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is exploring supply of small nuclear power reactors to electricity-starved countries.

Interestingly, India’s civilian nuclear power programme has caught the fancy of African countries because climate change has impacted their conventional hydropower generation capacity, which was primarily dependent on the Nile, the Niger, the Congo and the Zambezi river systems.

While hydropower generation has witnessed a decline leading to lower supply of electricity in African nations, India’s pressurized heavy water reactor’s (PHWR’s) unit size are well suited to meet their small demand load.

“Due to weather anomalies, the African countries can’t depend on hydropower generation to meet their growing electricity demand. Given that their demand load is small, our pressurized heavy water reactors of 220MW unit size fits the bill. The African countries are interested in these nuclear power reactors. These are initial feelers,” said a senior Indian government official, requesting anonymity.

The government’s move comes at a time when China has made major forays into Africa since 2004-05. In recent years, China has also tried to co-opt African countries into its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a programme to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects, including railways, ports and power grids, across Asia, Africa and Europe.

New Delhi is opposed to the BRI, which seeks to invest about $8 trillion in infrastructure projects across Asia, Europe and Africa, as it says the initiative lures countries into debt traps, and does not respect sovereignty or address environmental concerns.

India’s strategy is to negate the growing influence of strategic rival China in the region. New Delhi has also extended a $10-billion concessional line of credit (LOC) for the African continent.

Full article here.

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November 20, 2019 6:36 am

If I am not mistaken, the biggest problem with hydro-power in Africa is the ongoing warfare and not climate change.

With that as a backdrop, you can imagine what will happen when some war-lord gets his hands on a nuclear plant.

Reply to  Vincent
November 20, 2019 8:56 pm

“Vincent November 20, 2019 at 6:36 am

With that as a backdrop, you can imagine what will happen when some war-lord gets his hands on a nuclear plant.”

Oooh, scary words. Frightening, to the utterly ignorant.

So, just what is a warlord going to do with a “nuclear plant”?
Electrocute someone?
Sell off the copper?
Properly cook foods without filling the air with smoke?
Have lights on at night?
Contaminate his country with nuclear fuel?
Pretend that he can use a nuclear plant to “blow something up”? A threat that might work once. Once they realize the warlord is bluffing, they will call his bluff.

Reply to  ATheoK
November 21, 2019 12:29 am

How about recover some nuclear waste ( stocked on site ) or fuel rods, send it in a van packed with explosives and kamikaze driver into a populated area. Hardly takes a genius to see this is not a good idea in a continent ridden with tribalist civil wars and jihadi terrorist groups .

Your dismissive comment reveals your own ignorance. There is a sensible discussion to be had about the merits and dangers of nuclear power generation but your fatuous arguments show you are not part of it.

Benjamin W
Reply to  Greg
November 21, 2019 5:18 pm

First off, you’re not gonna get your suicide van anywhere close to such an area because the rival factions have their own security checkpoints long before you get somewhere important.

Secondly, you’d need to have the expertise to make something that doesn’t just throw around fuel pellets as shrapnel.

Third, a lot of “waste” just isn’t that hot. Something using pure Cobalt-60 would be a problem. A couple pounds of random fuel pellets getting tossed around by high explosives wouldn’t. You’d do more damage packing the bomb with the byproducts of a chemical plant than a nuclear reactor. Heck, a bursting charge on a tanker of anhydrous amonia would be way more terrifying.

Reply to  Benjamin W
November 22, 2019 5:05 am

I’m not too concerned since most of these “warlords” show “war techniques” little more advanced than chopping body parts off with machetes. Sure they have learned to pull triggers on firearms. You can probably train monkeys to do that. Small children can do it. In fact, they use children in their “armies”.
You can hand something complex and dangerous to an idiot and if the idiot doesn’t know how to use it, they can’t do anything with it. They are more likely to hurt themselves than other people.

Reply to  Vincent
November 20, 2019 9:58 pm

AtheoK – I strongly feel you may be projecting here, besides being rude – there are men in gaol in Aus for being found to be planning such a crime as Vincent suggests at our Research reactor. It has a dummy pilot tested titanium ‘bird cage’ to protect it from the likes of terrorists. I’d suggest that these small scale types from India will not have the same safety and support Vincent’s comment.

November 20, 2019 6:36 am

When you don’t have any infrastructure to speak of, you at least get to start with a clean sheet. Once installed, newer design nuclear will provide steady power for decades. No need to pipe in NG, haul in coal or cover the area with short lived, intermittent solar and wind.

Too bad we haven’t spent the last 20 years developing even better designs for nuclear power plants.

Reply to  rbabcock
November 20, 2019 8:38 am

There are newer design reactors. It’s just that the West, including the US, has not built any. Don’t forget the Bill Gates’ Wave Reactor that might one day come to fruition.

Lee L
Reply to  rbabcock
November 20, 2019 9:39 am

Nuclear power will provide steady power for decades but most definitely requires skilled maintenance and secure waste management systems for decades to avoid catastrophic outcomes. South Africa can probably manage that. Congo… ? Camaroon? Sudan? Ethiopia? These places don’t evoke visions of nuclear engineers and highly trained tradespeople.

This might not end well.

Reply to  Lee L
November 20, 2019 11:51 am

You may have left out the biggest problem: those in that area of the world who would love to acquire and ‘re-purpose’ radioactive material. How much would simply go ‘missing’ after a civil conflict or a little bribe, and turn up later in a suicide vest?

Lee L
Reply to  jtom
November 20, 2019 2:48 pm

Included under ‘secure waste management systems’ but yes, bad or ignorant actors are certainly a major concern.

Reply to  jtom
November 20, 2019 3:56 pm

The “biggest problem” is that they are broke.

Not going to happen.

Glenn Vinson
Reply to  Lee L
November 20, 2019 2:37 pm

If India builds a nuclear power plant in Africa, India will have to permanently staff the entire facility.

Reply to  Glenn Vinson
November 20, 2019 9:39 pm

True probably. Fact is that India itself is presently building Russian design nuclear power stations of 917 MW each (, model VVER-1000/V-412) :
Units 1 & 2 are running, 3&4 are being build and 5&6 are planned.
This project was much delayed by a Christian (foreign) funded NGO full of fake greenies with as result that now all NGOs receiving foreign funds are under Government scrutiny. The project had passive emergency cooling high up hill from the get go and is build on a safer elevation than Fukushima.

Another problem is that most current nuclear power plants were designed to co-create bomb material……

old construction worker
Reply to  rbabcock
November 21, 2019 4:30 am

newer design nuclear: I want one for my home.

November 20, 2019 6:37 am

“……because climate change has impacted their conventional hydropower generation.”

Oh dear!

But wait!

“……….the African countries can’t depend on hydropower generation to meet their growing electricity demand.

Right, so truthfully, demand is growing and climate change is just a convenient sob story to spin in order to raise cash from the international community.

Reply to  HotScot
November 20, 2019 7:00 am

“weather anomalies” just morphed into “climate change”….

I’m so sick of this

Reply to  Latitude
November 20, 2019 8:29 am


Chin up mate. They’re tying themselves in knots.

Bruce Cobb
November 20, 2019 6:40 am

“climate change has affected Africa’s conventional hydropower generation capacity”
Not even wrong. But hey, anything that goes wrong, for whatever reason, just bring out “climate change” as the whipping boy. Because it’s easy.

Dave Streeter
November 20, 2019 6:45 am

“Climate chnge” is irelevant. The important fact is that demand is increasing and small nuclear reactors will allow the increased demand to be fulfilled.

Reply to  Dave Streeter
November 20, 2019 4:00 pm

Because nuclear power is free? Last I looked it’s really expensive, and is never done on a small-scale in commercial applications, because it isn’t anywhere near economic.

All I want to know is where’s the money coming from?

Benjamin W
Reply to  WXcycles
November 21, 2019 5:00 pm

It’s only expencive in the west, where we’ve regulated it to death. As the saying goes, “If Nuclear was allowed to kill as many people as coal does, it would be too cheap to meter.”

November 20, 2019 7:02 am

“New Delhi is opposed to the BRI, which seeks to invest about $8 trillion in infrastructure projects across Asia, Europe and Africa, as it says the initiative lures countries into debt traps, and does not respect sovereignty or address environmental concerns.”

Lures them into debt traps. got it.

“India’s strategy is to negate the growing influence of strategic rival China in the region. New Delhi has also extended a $10-billion concessional line of credit (LOC) for the African continent.”

Which is a debt trap.

Reply to  Marv
November 20, 2019 7:45 am

Assuming the numbers are correct, $8 trillion >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> $10 billion

November 20, 2019 7:04 am

Well done India!
There are, of course, potential problems with nuclear power, but so there were with Western systems. We solved them, and India will solve theirs. Go for it!

Ed Zuiderwijk
November 20, 2019 7:11 am

Pressurised water reactors run on the U235-Pu cycle. Not a good idea.

Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
November 20, 2019 8:07 am

The Heavy Water design allows use of unenriched uranium. Thus avoiding Spinning centrifuge enrichment of uranium that is a significant cost. But heavy water reactors are more efficient for Pu production from U238, which can be recovered thru reprocessing.

nw sage
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
November 20, 2019 6:55 pm

Unless one is making bombs better to never make the Pu239 in the first place. Now if you have a VERY STABLE SOCIETY — not something I’d call anything in Africa.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
November 25, 2019 9:40 am

Good for tritium too

Bruce Cobb
November 20, 2019 8:19 am

If the supply of hydro power is indeed down, then they need to be clear on why, before investing in a new source of power. Nothing good can come from a system built on myths and lies.

Carl Friis-Hansen
November 20, 2019 8:51 am

Vincent pointed out in the first comment here, that there could be security issues.
Sure, but take for example the pebble bed reactor, which could have many advantages, inclusive security issues:
Second thoughts on South Africa’s pebble-bed reactor

The first one should already have been build, but they wanted to make the first one 90% perfect and forgot to get the politicians adequate onboard. I hope they get enough funding and drive to get the project up and running.

November 20, 2019 9:20 am

Canada sold India the Candu reactors which became the model for India’s nuclear program.. We stopped sales when India produced atomic bombs. Our nuclear program dwindled in the ennui that seems to have gripped the West. Now our major commodity is radical Quebecois environmentalists who are heavily subsidized by the ailing Alberta oil industry. India, China, can we help you build up your environmentalist industry? We can export any number of Candon’t radical units on request. Guaranteed to drag your countries down into the black pit of despair.

Jeremiah Puckett
November 20, 2019 11:19 am

If India’s nuclear reactors are so awesome why is India building coal plants faster than I drink Mountain Dew?

Reply to  Jeremiah Puckett
November 21, 2019 12:40 am

Because they are much faster, easier and cheaper to build so even private companies go for it.
The problem in India for electricity generation is now falling electricity prices due to too much intermittent solar, wind, “free” electricity for farm wells and other regional politics plus (global) economic slowdown.

November 20, 2019 11:52 am
November 20, 2019 1:03 pm

Britain should do the same – buy Indian nuclear ☢️ power stations.

Gard R. Rise
November 20, 2019 1:37 pm

Incredibly interesting & uplifting news; thanks for posting!

Kit P
November 20, 2019 3:18 pm

So how many of you commute using jet packs?

It would be interesting and newsworthy because no one is doing it.

All nuclear reactors are small in size. The benefit of reactors with large output is the reduced transportation of fossil fuel. For example at the nuke plant I worked at, 600 rail cars a day would be needed fuel the same capacity of the reactors that entered commercial service this year to help meet the needs of a local population of 50 million in a highly industrialized area.

If you need a power plant that does not produce much power nuclear is not worth the trouble.

So it is like jet packs. If you make them you want someone to buy them so you issue a press release about what a great idea it is. Of course there are no interesting stories about buyers.

November 20, 2019 3:29 pm

As the World Bank is apparently Green, then countries who do not believe in CC fairy tale will take over.

But one possible problem, , who are the technicians going to be ? Local or imported.

I hope that the design is fail safe.


November 20, 2019 4:15 pm

African states won’t be getting a ‘G7’ type national power grid without the necessary trillion-dollar scale national GDP level. They can perhaps afford more coal power to build up their economies for 5 to 10 decades, then lash out on building a nuclear grid. But it will be coal power which gets them there. Which is what India is doing.

shortus cynicus
November 20, 2019 10:28 pm

Electrical energy was developed by whites, who now surely feel offended by this cultural appropriation.
Every power plant in Africa is a symbol of white supremacy, especially nuclear ones running without a fire, probably using some special white magic.

The tragic is that you can find “professors” in leftist “univeristies” thinking exactly that way.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  shortus cynicus
November 22, 2019 3:45 am

Agreed. But lets take it down a step or two. Glass and lenses. A white man’s tech.

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